By Bruno Teixeira
Have you ever found yourself frustrated with the output of your workforce? Is your company culture corroding? If these are questions that zero in on some of your biggest headaches, the best solution may be to hold up a mirror and reexamine your leadership style. We all know that leading a company is not easy: You anticipate a certain number of challenges when you’re the key decision-maker. Many businesses struggle with developing a winning strategy, competing for market share, and staying relevant in their industry, just to name a few standard hurdles. But then there are more nuanced issues that you don’t expect to have to deal with, and they can become both unnecessary burdens and distractions from what’s most important. Topping that list are often the kind of issues that stem from interpersonal relationships within the office rather than the everyday business challenges that come with owning a company—in short, the kind of things that require a trusted HR professional to carefully intervene.
The HR Challenges
One of the most difficult aspects of running a business is managing all kinds of employees and temperaments. Even when managers set the highest standards, provide extensive training for every situation on the job, and try to encourage a positive and dynamic culture, things can still go awry.
Differing leadership styles can produce different outputs and affect employees’ personalities and attitudes in a variety of ways: It’s why taking a one-size-fits-all approach to managing your staff might inspire some but can quickly alienate others. This often leads to strained relationships between certain employees and management, which, in turn, can create a stressful, hostile work environment that’s neither good for morale nor productivity, and can ultimately limit communication between staff and leadership.
In a logistics-driven business, you have to depend on a high level of organization and management to keep the flow of work from one point to another moving seamlessly and quickly to meet what are often complex demands. Leaders in this environment must: keep an eye on the future and keep moving forward; build authentic relationships with employees and managers; stay curious and never stop learning; and honestly reflect on inefficiencies. When leaders aren’t well-versed in these skills or aren’t interested in subscribing to them, the company culture breaks down and decreased employee productivity is imminent.
Even your employees who possess the essential characteristics needed in logistics-driven businesses—attention to detail, flexibility, a calm demeanor, and excellent communication skills—will start to become disengaged when they feel the pressure of an unhealthy culture perpetuated by a suspicious owner or manager. Great employees understand boundaries and responsibilities, and they are particularly attuned to when they have decision-making power versus the limitations placed on them when they are required to obtain approval from management to move projects forward. People don’t typically thrive in logistics-driven positions when they are irritable, anxious, or micromanaged by leaders who demand owner-dependency. The latter can be the most detrimental of all: Micromanagement is one of the most harmful traits a leader can possess, and more importantly, it’s bad for your business.
How to Cultivate a Flourishing Culture
Every effective business owner wants to know the secret to developing a robust, healthy, and productive workplace culture. The truth is, while every office environment is different, one thing is universal: The best workplace cultures are built from the ground up, nurtured, and reshaped over time to ensure that the needs of the business, as well as the needs of employees, are met throughout the evolution of a company. A successufl team can pivot and adapt to meet its new challenges, if helmed by a thoughtful leader.
Employee empowerment is a guaranteed way to create a strong culture. When managers have a high level of trust in their team and those employees feel supported when given the autonomy to make ownership-mentality decisions, your business will flourish. It requires work, but the payoff is worth it.
Let’s talk about a few steps you can take to set you, your business, and your employees up for success.
Business Needs Come First: Prioritizing is a challenge that many leaders face, particularly when it comes to handling productivity and culture. A crucial component of a healthy workplace culture is employee satisfaction, but it can’t come at the expense of running a thriving business. Don’t worry: It is possible to have both a profitable, flourishing business as well as a strong, positive culture. Growth presents its own challenges, and it could impact your team if you’re not dialed in to those issues, but don’t lose hope. As a company leader, you set the standard for your operation’s vision, values, and priorities. Take the time to determine what your business stands for, what goals you strive to achieve, and how you’re going to reach them. Clearly outline a value proposition for yourself and your leadership team, then use it as a roadmap to establishing expectations for living up to that ideal.
Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset: It might seem like a counterintuitive assertion after saying that the business comes first, but it’s not. It is possible to put the operation first while showing your employees how much they are valued and their individual importance in the context of internally supporting the company’s ultimate goals. If you can strike the perfect balance between prioritizing the business and empowering and valuing your people, consider yourself an effective leader.
As a business owner or manager, you must understand the importance of hiring intelligent, reliable, and trustworthy employees. When you stock your team with the best people and place them in the right positions, you’re more than halfway to business victory. If you’ve never had a lot of hiring experience, though, beware: It’s not as easy as it sounds to find and keep those rock-star team members. Before beginning the hiring process, be sure to specifically outline the skills and qualities that you need for each position to ensure your business will be successful. Write down these needs and evaluate potential candidates against the criteria. Also remember that hiring wisely builds a team, but managing to each employee’s needs maintains a strong team.
Proper Onboarding Is Critical: Rushing through the onboarding process is a huge mistake, and it might be tempting; don’t take for granted the importance of slowing down, providing proper and thorough training, and clearly outlining expectations. This cannot be emphasized enough. It can be tough to do when you’re short-staffed or have a heavy volume of work, but creating a foundation for a new employee is crucial.
During the onboarding process, set the standard for decision making. Who has the authority to make decisions? When must others be consulted? What are the consequences and penalties if there’s a breakdown in the process? When you have to re-hire for positions because you rushed through the onboarding process, the cost to your company is huge; a high turnover will be a drain on the employees left behind to pick up more work and support a revolving door of new hires, and a lack of experience slows down even the simplest processes. Do it right the first time.
Trusting and empowering employees is where so many leaders—even potentially great ones—fail. Management gets tricky when leaders are unable to delegate, inspire confidence in, and empower their employees to get the job done. These are skills that some leaders naturally possess, and others have to spend a lifetime improving their knowledge and competencies. Cultures built on trust will inherently be more productive, and both managers and employees will enjoy this foundation of a thriving workplace. [CD0220]
Bruno Teixeira is a marketing and business consultant, as well as the founder of The Limousine Expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.